Outstanding Art Requires Marketing that Stands Out

The following post is from an e-mail message (lightly edited) that I sent to a recent client who had asked me the following: “Do you know of any ‘preferred’ ways to approach a gallery? My plan is to finalize the Website, then create a brochure/postcard about my work and send it out to selected galleries to drive them to the site for more info. Does this sound like a good plan for exposure?"

I would not claim to be an expert in “art world” promotion tactics; there are subtleties and intricacies in said world about which I’m just not that knowledgeable. (I know enough to know that I don’t know much.) Fixing your site and doing a postcard are key, but how exactly to approach galleries I can’t say for sure. Consider the following rules of thumb, though, which might apply to ANY realm to which you/I/anyone might be seeking access.

Do your research; find a handful of galleries that you believe would be receptive to your work—based on previous work shown, stated philosophy (if any), word of mouth, and whatever information you can glean. Then target those galleries through some combination of stealth, accepted practice, and, if possible, audacity (though you probably don’t want to do anything too wacky or brash). Tailor your approach to each gallery, even if only slightly; make sure that each one you contact knows you’re aware of what it shows (i.e., the art they like), and DO NOT even hint that it (the gallery) is part of some mass mailing.

A generic, “broadcast” approach will never be a substitute for diligent research and networking/personal contact. I realize that this in itself is fairly generic advice, but it’s still true. It’s EASY to send out a mass of promotional fodder and think you’ve made a good faith effort to promote yourself (come what may); it’s HARD to really find out where your work might have the best chance.

There are no silver bullets; there are no one-size-fits-all answers or approaches. Before you do anything, though: make sure that your art and your materials (Website/postcard/etc.) are the best they can be; ALWAYS try to make whatever you do—art/promotion/anything associated with your creative life—stand out. First take care of what you have the most control over (ESPECIALLY your art), and the rest might be easier than you imagine.

For more posts on art promotion, and for links to samples of my work, go to the Writing for Artists tab